Sunday, July 27, 2014

A view from Amherst Island.

Amherst Island is a kind a sanctuary. For migratory birds, for period architecture, for various aspects of simple farm life, for events of historic importance and for people. 
Those who live here (and the many who visit by ferry) find something restful and calmingly beautiful about this island of farms, fields, forests and stone walls. Something seems safe and right about the place. I sense that the historic walls everywhere on the island are still doing their job - enclosing that which is meaningful and timeless, and providing protection from all that isn't.  

Unfortunately they can not completely hide the ugliness of industrialization. If you look north from Amherst Island, over the Bay of Quinte's 'North Channel' the view is spoiled by the Lafarge Cement Plant. 

The very chunks of material that the walls on the island (like this one in the foreground) are all made of - limestone - is the very stuff that when extracted in great bulk on the mainland and heated to within a quarter of the temperature of the surface of the sun, and then crushed up with other chemicals, produces 'cement'. 

Newer factories, wider highways, bigger shopping malls and more ugly industrial buildings can then be constructed from concrete which is made from that cement.  This represents a type progress.

So far, the threat of this kind of progress has been kept off the island. The Ontario government however has big plans to build dozens of tall wind turbines to clutter the landscape, and generate great mega watts of power. This will be a great change to the island and a concern to every person who holds Amherst dear to their hearts.

I think the challenge now for the Amherst Island is to look to another kind of progress  -  Preservation, which is a process that isn't focused just on extracting and using up new resources. It's a building with and upon the things we have at hand.

Any other progress is ultimately destructive.  I think - as do many others on the island including Andrea Cross who showed us around last week -  that the preserving of the island's stone heritage is an important part of that preservation process.